Senior Citizens and Patient Advocates Brave San Diego Federal Courthouse in Support of Legal Cannabis Patients Victimized by Unethical Wire Tap

By Terrie Best – San Diego Americans for Safe Access


September 13, 2012


San Diego, CA – Over 60 senior citizens put the Edward Schwartz Federal Courthouse on its ear by forming a long line outside the building, donning green medical cannabis ribbons of support, and setting off metal detectors with their canes and walkers.


Their mission: To support Ronnie Chang, Hal Pilotte and co-defendants Gary Maddox and Peter Suhan (all allegedly connected to Club One Collective/Extreme Holistic Care, formerly San Diego Dispensary Services). The defendants were in court with their attorneys Michael J McCabe, Paul Turner, Mark Bluemel and Tom Matthews to argue a motion challenging the legality of a wire tap.


Michael McCabe, who wrote and argued the motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the wire tap, asserted the affidavit used to support the warrant contained false statements and omissions of facts. Further, had those false statements not been included in the affidavit and had the omitted information been included there would not have been enough probable cause to support the wire tap warrant, making it illegal.


US Prosecutor, Paul Starita decided not to use oral arguments and seemed quite taken aback by the full galley of supporters. The US attorney’s office likely understands it will be difficult to seat a jury who would convict when it is common knowledge that California is a medical cannabis state.


For years, the federal government has senselessly interfered with states rights to regulate cannabis in accordance with Proposition 215, a peoples’ initiative, SB420, designed to clarify the scope of 215, and the California Attorney General’s Guidelines for the Security and Non-diversion of Marijuana Grown for Medical Use.


Among the points of Starita’s written response was the opinion that primary care givers for infirm people who use medical cannabis may not be entities but only individuals. Mr. McCabe, however was able to quickly enter evidence to discredit Starita’s argument with documents he obtained from state court.


In the now vacated state case against Ronnie Chang, prosecutor Theresa Pham entered the collective’s membership agreement into evidence some time ago and Mr. McCabe obtained and used the agreement to expose Starita’s falsehood that the collective ever designated themselves as primary care givers.


The state case was vacated when the US Attorney’s office inserted themselves into the matter and San Diego District Attorney (and failed Mayoral candidate), Bonnie Dumanis allowed county resources to be used to assist in the victimization of the defendants on the federal level. This disturbing level of cooperation illustrates how much assistance Dumanis office provides the US attorney’s office in their effort to thwart the will of California voters.


In the courtroom every chair in department 5 was filled and 20 more supporters waited outside necessitating a US Marshall be stationed at the door throughout the hearing to keep latecomers out, for lack of seating.


The Judge, Michael M Anello, acknowledged the supporters with an understanding of why we were there. In a show of authority to the seniors however, US Marshalls attempted to put Ronnie Chang, who is in custody, in the corner of the courtroom away from his counsel, an intimidation tactic that did not work on his honor.


In the end Judge Anello ruled against the defendants, a crushing blow to the supporters who were seen leaving the courtroom in tears. Mr. McCabe remained to speak with supporters, explain the motion’s arguments and provide information on the case law cited within it. Among the case law Mr. McCabe used in his motion:


Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978)

United States v. $186,416.00 in U.S. Currency, 590 F.3d 942 (9th Cir. 2010)

People v, Mower

People v. Mench

People v. Colvin


On the other hand, Paul Starita, in his effort to exit the room and escape the crowd at the end of the hearing, accidentally hit Ronnie Chang’s mother in the head with the swinging door as he exited and she was taken away by ambulance. Mrs. Chang is doing well but sustained heavy bruising.


Outside the courthouse supporters were delighted to hear attorney Bahar Ansari Miller take interest in the case and it looks hopeful she will take Hal Pilotte as a client, replacing appointed counsel, Paul Turner. Ms. Ansari Miller was co-counsel with Mr. McCabe in the successful Davidovich state case a few years ago and has extensive knowledge in medical cannabis law.


Later that day, Hal Pilotte thanked his friends and supporters with this note:


Ann and I wish to thank all of you who showed up to support us in court yesterday, and those of you who held us up in your thoughts and prayers and couldn’t be their. We had around 50+ supporters who showed up for us and well over 20 people who could not get seats inside the courtroom. We know it made an impact. A special thanks to Colleen McCall. Colleen took calls from people who were concerned about us and wanted some information on how to get to the Federal courthouse and Coaster train times to and from. You are all dear dear friends.


Hal also vowed to keep fighting this terrible injustice. He and his wife Ann continue to help with the care of Ronnie’s mother while Ronnie is in custody.


Upcoming court dates for this case are October 30, 2012 at 9:30AM and November 28, 2012 at 9:30AM, Dept. 5, on the 3rd Flr. of the San Diego Federal Courthouse, 940 Front St. at Broadway, San Diego, CA, 92101.


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“When you’re a lawman & you’re dealing with people, it’s best not to go by the book, but to go by the heart.” ~ Sheriff Andy Taylor, Mayberry, NC


Court Support Request for Chang, Pilotte and Co-Defendants


WHAT: Chang, Pilotte and Co-Defendants – Motion to Challenge Legality of Wire Tap WHEN: Monday September 10, 2012 at 2:00PM WHERE: Dept. 5, on the 3rd Flr. of the San Diego Federal Courthouse, 940 Front St. at Broadway, San Diego, CA, 92101

On September 10 th , 2012, Ronnie Chang, Hal Pilotte and co-defendants: James Brand, Gary Maddox, Peter Suhan and Amanda Ventura ( all allegedly connected to Club One Collective/ Extreme Holistic Care) will be in court with their attorneys Michael McCabe, Paul Turner, Knut Johnson, James Dicks and Mark Bluemel, this time to argue motions challenging the legality of the wire tap used in this case.

McCabe, of the successful state court medical cannabis cases: Davidovich (who was acquitted of all charges) and Padilla (who was exonerated when the Honorable Laura Parsky dismissed all charges in the interest of justice), wrote and will argue the motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the wire tap.

Ronnie, Hal and co-defendants were victims of the 9/9/09 raids on cannabis collectives in San Diego County. A widespread and brutal attack on legal cannabis patients, the raids were part of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ senseless destruction of the public safety collectives provide the community.

Ronnie, a legal medical cannabis patient and the sole defendant in the case to remain in custody, was also in court Tuesday, August 21, 2012 with his attorney, Michael J. McCabe and a room full of patient advocates, to provide the court an update that collateral for his bond was not met, cutting off possibility of a pre-trail release for Ronnie.

Ronnie had been arrested following the raid of Club One Collective/Extreme Holistic Care in San Marcos but was able to post bail as were all five defendants in the case. Subsequently, Ronnie’s bond was pulled due to an audit of the bond company which uncovered the unsecured nature of his bond. In June, the bondsman was forced to take Ronnie into custody because of the unsecured bond. The U.S. prosecution, Paul Starita, denied knowledge of the audit but continues to pressure for a plea.

It is unclear why Ronnie, Hal and their co-defendants have been charged in federal court when this is a state’s issue.

Another victim of the 9/9/09 raids, James Stacy, was also charged in federal court last year. The threat of jury nullification secured a “no-prison” plea bargain and James is now off probation and back to work.

One wonders how much public money is spent on these cases that end in prosecutorial fear that a conviction will not be met due to jury nullification – a right of jurors to exonerate victims of unjust laws.

Like James Stacy’s prosecutor learned, it will be a challenge to seat a jury of 12 who believe people belong in jail for using and providing sick people a safe alternative to life destroying pharmaceuticals.

The September 10 th hearing is paramount to the case. If there ever was a time to be present and represent the voice of patients who are dismayed over the brutality of the federal government on the issue of safe legal access to medical cannabis, this will be the day.

Please consider attending this important hearing.

A note from Hal and Ann Pilotte: As most of you know I (Hal) am facing some serious Federal charges fabricated by the United States Assistant District Attorney Paul Starita and the DEA, over what I was doing as a volunteer at a State Legal Medical Marijuana Collective.

On September 10th at 2:00 PM in the Federal Court Building on the corner of Front Street and Broadway in San Diego, on the third floor with Judge Anello presiding, the first motions hearings are going to be held regarding the misleading statements of DEA agents and Sheriffs as to what a State Legal Medical Marijuana Collective is in order to get a Magistrate to issue warrants for wire tap and search and seizure, along with many other misleading statements and many omissions of facts which lead to my arrest and the arrest of others in this case. In other words, The FED’s and Cops mislead the Judge who issued the warrant and our Attorney Michael McCabe has filled a motion to suppress the warrants and evidence obtained by them in which these officials lied to the Judge in order to obtain.

I am asking all of my family and friends to please come and support me on this important day in court. If at all possible, and if time permits, your presence in the courtroom will make a clear statement to the misleading and corrupt prosecuting team. In addition, I would love for my friends to really hear the truth about this case and see the injustice first hand.

For those of you in the North County who can make it to the hearing, Colleen McCall has information on Coaster times for those who would like to go down with the group who are attending the hearing. It’s a good idea to be there by 1:15 PM in order to get in the court in time. Colleen’s phone number is (760) 295-9399. Thank you all for your support! All of Our Love, Hal and Ann Pilotte

See you there! Terrie Best, San Diego ASA Court Support Coordinator –

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“When you’re a lawman & you’re dealing with people, it’s best not to go by the book, but to go by the heart.” ~ Sheriff Andy Taylor, Mayberry, NC